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Transitioning from the treadmill to outdoor running

Photo: Tobyotter via Flickr

The weather is slowly changing and soon many runners who have been cooped up all winter will begin the transition from the treadmill to outdoor running.

For the most part, this transition is not too difficult to make as long as you do not suddenly increase your volume of running.

“Spring can give you renewed energy, so be careful you do not increase your pace too quickly – same as the start of a race giving you a boost in energy or feeling that you can go faster than you are trained to do,” said William Roberts, M.D., professor with the University of Minnesota Medical School, Family Medicine and Community Health.

If your gait (manner or rate of movement) is the same on a treadmill as it is on pavement or a trail, you should not have too much trouble adjusting to running outdoors. However, if the treadmill makes you run a little differently, you will need some time for your gait to readjust.

So, how can you safely make the transition from treadmill to outdoor running?

Dr. Roberts recommends:

  • Give your leg and pelvic muscles a few days to adjust to the outdoor pace and impact, especially if your indoor activity involved workouts on non-running equipment like stationary bikes or rowing machines.
  • Dress for the conditions and dress to be seen by cars, bikes, and other vehicles that can take you off the roads if there is a collision. It is easy to forget about the rest of the environment on a treadmill.

Furthermore, many outdoor runners experience joint and other muscle soreness because they run on hard surfaces.

Dr. Roberts offers this bit of advice:

  • Grass is softer than dirt paths; dirt paths are softer than blacktop; blacktop is softer than concrete.
  • It’s important to learn to land lightly on all surfaces by shortening your stride and trying not to pound on your heels.

Finally, please remember to pick the safest spot to run and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

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